Melbourne-based cross border payments platform Airwallex is one of the Australian startup community’s brightest stars, having attracted an honour roll of global venture capital investment brands to its books.
Airwallex was founded with global markets in mind from day one. It had established an office in Shanghai within months, and was looking for strategic global investors from the start. Inevitably, that led the company to some of the largest VC interests in China.
It is backed by Tencent, Mastercard, Sequoia Capital, Mastercard and Gobi Partners, having raised US$16 million.
Airwallex CEO Jack Zhang says that attracting the interest of venture players in China was important in that China is a core market for the company, but it wasn’t the most important consideration. Tencent and Gobi Partners are global VC brands and their support was sought for its global significance rather than a China heritage.
Mr Zhang will provide a keynote address at the China Money, China Markets forum in Sydney on Thursday. His speech will outline what Asia-based investors look for in Australian startups. You can find more details here.
And he says the pragmatic considerations of a VC from China is not different from other global VCs. Mr Zhang who went to school and university in Melbourne before working an early career in the finance sector in Australia and Southeast Asia, is a Mandarin speaker.
But he plays down the specific importance of language or cultural connections. The top Chinese VCs are graduates from the top schools. A great many have returned after careers in the US and elsewhere. They are working through deals in the US, UK, Southeast Asia “all the time. The deals are done in English.
“The top VCs are all very international. They are very, very sophisticated and have been doing this for many years. We weren’t looking necessarily for Chinese investors, we were looking for very specific investors,” Mr Zhang said.
VCs are looking at the business and whether it can scale globally, not at cultural or language niceties.
If you are looking for VC in Asia, Mz Zhang has three top line pieces of pragmatic advice. Be expert at what you do. Bring your passion to execute what you do. And have a business that is able to scale across the Asia-Pacific and beyond.
Joining the China Money, China Market forum is Jessica Wilson, the Stashd fashion app founder who found massive fame in China as a finalist in its “The Next Unicorn” television series. Ms Wilson will sit on a panel discussion that looks at ‘China, intellectual property and innovation’.
Also speaking on the program is SmartTrans CEO Bryan Carr. The ASX-listed SmartTrans is an Australian tech industry pioneer in the China market, where provides a platform-based payments systems. Until very recently SmartTrans was one of just tiny handful of Australian software companies operating in China.
Former Austrade executive director Grame Barty joins a panel discussion on ‘China, IP and Innovation’. The full speaker list includes:
Bryan Carr, Chief Executive Officer, SmartTrans Holdings
Jingchuan Zhao, PRC Partner, King & Wood Mallesons
Jason Yat-sen Li , Chairman, Vantage Asia Holdings
Andrea Myles, Chief Executive Officer and Co-Founder, China Australia Millennial Project
Benjamin Chong, Founder, Right Click Capital
Lee Horan, Partner, King & Wood Mallesons
Grame Barty, Principal Consultant, Barty & Associates and former Executive Director International Operations, Austrade
Terry Hilsberg, Venture Partner, Innohub Capital
David Thomas, CEO of Think Global Consulting and President of the Australia China SME Association
Duco van Breemen, General Manager, Haymarket HQ
Jane Menzies, Senior Lecturer in International Business, Faculty of Business and Law, Deakin University, and Co-author of “Born in China: a new type of Australian business”